China and Political Prisoners

Published on Author wenxiang

Given China’s recent track record with political prisoners, it seems rather encouraging that they have now released Jigme Gyatso, allegedly due to ill health. While political actions against higher profile individuals continue, this may mark a shift in China’s policy, focusing on key individuals rather than suppressing dissent groups en masse. Given the CCP’s focus on maintaining national stability however, it may simply mark a shift in priorities, as Tibet has achieved little but self-immolation in its continued struggle to gain independence. In particular, the jailing of supposed dissidents in the Ugihur regions displays an ongoing concern regarding the rise of terrorism, especially in the regions closest to the Middle East. Given a dearth of information regarding their sentencing, it may come down to little more than local grudges carried out by a relatively autonomous region.

4 Responses to China and Political Prisoners

  1. Encouraging? He was released because of his “poor health.” His friends reported that he had a limp and issues with his heart and vision. It does not seem like Chinese policy has changed at all, especially considering the self-immolations are continuing. Just last week, a mother of four self-immolated . Although I am not fully versed on the issue, it seems rather odd that someone would commit suicide before finding other ways to express themselves or protest against their government.
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  2. I know one person who has an elderly family member in prison, and a former neighbor in Tokyo spent a decade-plus in prison, the latter an academic and not a political activist. (I don’t want to mention more in a public forum.) So these aren’t abstract issues. On the other hand, the US has a far, far larger prisoner population than China, and while incarceration is not (or at least seldom) overtly “political” it certainly focuses on politically vulnerable groups (one Econ 398 capstone project is looking at the economic implications of spending time in prison). Then there’s Guantanamo…

    Unfortunately China has its equivalents of “throw away the key” hardliners who score political points whatever the underlying rationale (or lack thereof). I suspect places such as Tibet are a breeding ground for sadists in the Chinese police / military system (those who aren’t brutes get out quickly, so over time the least desirable individuals are the ones who dominate local law enforcement). Now that the latest leadership transition in Beijing is over, let’s hope that allows change in Tibet and Xinjiang [ethnic Uyghurs].

  3. It will definitely be something to keep an eye on but as Duncan pointed out, he was released for health reasons. If for example the Chinese released a plethora of prisoners then I would take a hard look at the implications. Granted they didn’t let him die in prison, but i’d hardly call the release compassionate. Self-immolation is pretty prevalent in Tibet and the people there look at it as a way to gain publicity. Would we be talking about Tibet without the self-immolation? To a certain extent, academia would but to be in a major newspaper is less likely.

  4. I agree with the previous two posters that the government releasing him for health reasons isn’t something to try and analyze too much. Releasing him looks much better than letting him die in prison, and I don’t think the government wanted to deal with the backlash from that. With the world putting more focus on freeing political prisoners, maybe the Chinese government will begin to release more of these people.